UPDATE 1-Ireland's CRH sees stagnant annual earnings

Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:13am EDT

* H1 EBITDA 568 mln eur vs 574 mln last year

* Sales in America up 20 pct vs 5 pct drop in Europe

* Says euro zone market has deteriorated

DUBLIN, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Ireland-based building materials group expects 2012 earnings to be unchanged from last year as business in the United States offsets a slump in Europe that dragged down sales there in the first half of the year.

Sales in the U.S, where CRH is the leading producer of asphalt for highway construction, rose 20 percent in the six months ended June compared with a 5 percent drop in Europe where bad weather at the start of the year added to problems caused by the debt crisis.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell 1 percent to 568 million euros ($701.56 million), in line with analysts' expectations.

Forecasts for the full-year currently range between 1.67 billion and 1.82 billion euros, with the average at 1.74 billion, euros according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 17 analysts.

"Problems in the euro zone, which have intensified over the past six months, continue to erode consumer and business confidence in the wider European economy," CRH's Chief Executive Myles Lee said in a statement on Tuesday.

The group said it will cut more costs in response to weakness in key markets such as the Netherlands and the Benelux region.